Thursday, 13 September 2012

Films in June 2012

Never got round to finishing and posting this before MA work really went crazy, so hear it is below. I also have lists, with no notes at all, of films in July and August that I'll put up next week

June was a far superior month to May, I had very little time to make it to the cinema, as ever, but I did binge on two film festivals. My Sheffield Doc/Fest and Edinburgh International Film Festival coverage are up on Film&Festivals Magazine’s online film festivals blog - links provided below. 

As always, just a simple summary of my thoughts under each film, rather than any kind of informative review. Comments are much more concerned with what I thought the film was about, and impression it made on me with respect to its meaning, rather than what I did or didn’t like about it, but obviously the placing will let you know what I thought of it, as my film of the month will be at the top, followed by the rest in order of preference, with the worst at the bottom, which once again isn’t one I particularly disliked at all.

Paris, Texas - Wim Wenders, 1984
The weight of responsibility, and sorting out shit that you've fucked up in the past. People have darkness in them, repression of it makes it worse and can damage the soul, but nothing is unchangeable. Masculinity is at question, as the father blames himself for breaking down the mother and possibly blames this on picking up the darkness from his own father. Has his openness, his willingness not to repress, saved his son from the same fate?

Werckmeister Harmonies - Bela Tarr, 2000
Structure, disruptions then continuation. This message runs throughout the film and is made clear from the opening ‘eclipse’ scene. This flow of life controls the actions of people just as they are controlled acting out this scene. Just like the eclipse is a natural glitch, so is social unrest, but is similarly followed by ‘normality’ just as suddenly. The film often depicts stories that are exaggerated; they are the very human aspect in this process.

Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson, 2012
Very rarely can a film so stylised feel so earnest and poignant. The age depicted is a very tricky point between childhood and adolescence. You can still revel in your childlike imagination, but then there are material changes afoot and you have to enter the even messier world of adulthood. Which is no more clear, but has in many cases lost that sense of adventure

Here, Then - Mao Mao - 2012 - From Edinburgh IFF
Coverage on Film&Festivals 

Prometheus - Ridley Scott, 2012
Glad it's doing the big ideas and would like there to be sequels. Android adding a further layer to that question of creators/what is human. Looking backwards and forwards. 

Tahrir: Liberation Square - Stefano Sovano, 2011 - From Edinburgh IFF
Coverage on Film&Festivals

Smoke - dir. Wayne Wang, written by Paul Auster, 1995
Urbanity, duplicity, identity: Characters use multiple names and change their identities in different contexts so identity is very fluid. The creation of who you are is based on language, on the construction of a story; this is mirrored by the way that stories themselves are used. Not only is story writing and story telling put at the forefront, but are directly addressed and questioned. Who's to say what is real and isn't. Isn't most of this codified in language anyway? How much of the real is hidden behind 'smoke' and mirrors. Or in more direct reference to smoke, the story told early on, recounting howWalter Rawley introduced queen Elizabeth to tobacco by making a bet that he could weigh smoke.This early story/scene perfectly captures what the film says about stories and that they seem intangible; they seem like they aren't there, but they are. To measure them would seem peculiar, but actually it makes perfect sense. Of course they're there, just as you can weigh smoke.

Postcards From the Zoo - Edwin, 2012 - From Edinburgh IFF
Coverage on Film&Festivals

Kid-Thing - David Zellner, 2012 - From Edinburgh IFF
Coverage on Film&Festivals

Ghost World - Terry Zwigoff, 2001
The main character was very authentically adolescent; she was her own worst enemy, put everything off, blamed other people and completely failed to sort out her own shit. Shows a variety of people that are just outside of “normality” and see through it as the fabricated controlling force that it is.

High Tech, Low Life- Stephen Maing, 2012 - From Doc/Fest
Coverage on Film&

The Man from London - Bela Tarr, 2007
The premise of taking the noir/thriller plot structure and juxtaposing it with the patient and mesmerizing camera of a Bela Tarr film is more promising than fulfilling. The very fact that these genre staples are slowed down and subverted - i.e. the camera actively avoids confrontation and spectacle - is a fantastic approach and doubtless the film is beautiful and engrossing, but because of this infusion of genre, the plot and characters have little to say. Their genre placing leaves them without the ambiguity I've come to expect from Tarr and therefore with a much diminished existentialism. The form is just as lucid, but the narrative requires much less thought than either of his other two films I have seen recently, Werckmeister Harmonies and The Turin Horse.

Evidently... John Cooper Clarke - John Ross, 2012 - From Doc/Fest
Coverage on Film&

Y tu Mama Tambien - Alfonso Cuaron, 2001
Adolescent road movies are always easily a favourite of mine (i.e. why I loved Ave so much at this year’s Bradford International Film Festival). Light breezy, fun and honest, but packs a punch from time to time. This goes back into heritage and history with the contemporary urbanity always evident in the boys, whilst they travel further into Mexico’s rural expanse. They find out more about themselves as they see more of their country. this idea isn’t put forward too forcefully, and they aren't in awe, but just shows how this whole world they thought they knew and thought they had locked down, was only a tiny fraction. This includes the the way they thought they had please, and could please, the girls we see them with at the start. They have plenty to learn from the wider world; not only finding more about their country, but pivotally being on this journey from a more mature character representing another aspect of Mexican heritage, its roots in Spain.

Hospitalité - Koji Fukada, 2010 - From Edinburgh IFF
Edinburgh IFF coverage on Page 55 of HowDo

Death Proof - Quentin Tarrantino, 2007
I like that in the two halves, one half is used to set up/ratify conventions, so that the second one can break them down. Extremely feminist agenda and showed how inept the cops are.  Sisterrrrrrs, doing it for themselves and a real real love letter to the carsploitation period whilst still adding more to it in a very Tarrantino way.

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal - Boris Rodriguez, 2012 - From Edinburgh IFF
Edinburgh IFF coverage on Page 55 of HowDo

Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven - Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975
Very specifically domestically set, which adds to its narrative of showing it as 'this is the depiction of real working people’s experience'. This becomes particularly important when introduced to the Communists, who act like religions group pouncing on this weak lady for their own political ends, having no idea about the experiences of actual working people. This move comes part way through a film that is highly critical of the increasingly heartless capitalist system and nicely balances out the narrative so as to be more complex and nuanced than an overt political rant. Communists use the mother’s high profile court case regarding the loss of her husband to gain political will, just as the capitalist event promoter uses the singer-girl as the sideshow attraction of the daughter of the father who killed himself as a way of making prophit. All just exploiting somebody's loss for their own ends. Who loses out in this? Real people.

Lullaby - Dziga Vertov, 1937 - From Doc/Fest
Coverage on Film&

The Way of the Dragon - Bruce Lee, 1972
Nice way to tackle immigration in the form of some badass Bruce Lee flying kicks.

Alpha Dog - Nick Cassavetes, 2006
Can't say it wasn't dead cheesy, but think it did what it wanted to really well. It used the exploitation tactic of sex, violence, foul language and hot young folk. Not full on extreme, but enough to bring in the audience. EVERYONE was hot and all about the sex, drugs and rock'n roll. Putting the sort of ‘this is what kind of calamity can go no when you enter this drug/gangster world’ didactic message.

The Imposter - Bart Layton, 2012
Shocking yet funny; few things manage to capture that balance. You're busy laughing at those on that end of the camera whilst you yourself are being duped by the same tricks.

Law of the Jungle - Michael Christofferson & Hans le Cour, 2012 - From Doc/Fest
Coverage on Film&

New Releases this month in order (including yet to be, or won't be, released festival films)

Moonrise Kingdom
Here, Then
Tahrir: Liberation Square
Postcards From the Zoo
High Tech, Low Life
Evidently... John Cooper Clarke
Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
The Imposter
Law of the Jungle

Ongoing list of new films seen this year

The Avengers
Moonrise Kingdom 
Here, Then
Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)

The Hunger Games 
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The Descendants

Le Havre 

Tahrir: Liberation Square 
Postcards From the Zoo 
High Tech, Low Life 
Evidently... John Cooper Clarke
Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal 
Mirror Mirror
War Horse
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Journey 2: the Mysterious Island

Woman in Black
Dangerous Method

The Imposter 
The Pirates.
This Must Be the Place

Bel Ami

Law of the Jungle 
Star Wars Episode 1

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Network Held Together by the Love of Cinema: The impact of cinephilia on the global film festival network and their coinciding evolutions

Intro still isn't quite right, and haven't fully written a concluding couple of paragraphs yet, but below is pretty much my finished MA dissertation. PLEASE let me know any bits you think don't work or any sloppy typos you see. 


Introduction: Film festivals as an alternative method of distribution

A dichotomy between art and commerce exists in most mediums, no less the medium of cinema. But this dichotomy is actually much more like a symbiosis, where commercially driven motivations negotiate with a love for cinema and the belief that it can push boundaries, impart ideas, challenge dominant world views and articulate the lives of under-represented cultures. This love of cinema is commonly referred to as cinephilia.
The dominant rhetoric of ever-increasing box office records and markers placed in line with the opening weekend takings of films across the globe would lead one to believe that it is this side of the symbiosis that shapes taste in the global distribution and production of cinema. The linear, profit-driven approach that embraces and reinforces this language-game is typified by the synergy and corporate ownership Hollywood.[1] Yet, although this discourse dominates the popular press, profiteering is far from the guiding principle of a vast amount of film production and distribution. The above profit-driven language game fails to acknowledge the fundamental role that cinephilia has played, and continues to play, in the production and distribution of global cinema. This cinephilia guides the non – or more specifically less - linear approach of the complex relationships found in the international film festival network. This essay is interested in this system, a system that produces films that don’t come under Hollywood’s corporate system and don’t reflect the same aesthetic tastes, generic tropes and compliance with easily saleable dominant ideologies. These films often find their way through the various levels of the film festival network to arrive at ‘art-house’ cinemas across the world.[2]
It is the intention of this essay to examine exactly why, in the face of increasing Hollywood synergy and box office control, are film festivals not only still in existence, but also constantly growing in number. Far from there being two mutually exclusive systems, there exists a constantly shifting symbiosis of dominant and counter approaches to film distribution. Cinephilia will be underpinned as the driving force behind finding and presenting films ‘other’ to the dominant model, by constantly reinventing itself to ensure that cinema remains fresh, injects its contemporary landscape with a love of moving images and challenges any attempts to push corporate agendas over the artistic merit of film. This cinephilia will be shown to manifest itself in the specially curated programmes found at film festivals or in film societies, such as Amos Vogel’s Cinema 16. This network of cinephile-driven curation and programming, rather than simply creating an unrelated counter-system to the dominant Hollywood mode, enters into a neo-Gramscian system of counter-hegemony whereby it can influence other forms of more populist film production and distribution, which ensures that the cinematic landscape remains innovative, yet avoids becoming trapped in cultural ghettos. This process will be set against the changing socio-cultural values at several key points during the history of the film festival. Within these changes, the rise of postmodernism will be foregrounded, and specific use of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s (1979) declaration that emerging non-linear ‘little narratives’ are gaining increasing influence over cultural production compared to established, fixed and linear ‘grand narratives’ will frame the increasing significance of cinephile programmers. The dynamism of cinephilia, which constantly interjects and guides this development based on the ‘needs’ of film lovers will be compared to the invisible hand of free market capitalism, but its assumed preoccupation with short-term profits will be discredited in light of the longing for long-term sustainability.

Film Festivals: An under-exposed field of study

Considering how long film festivals have been in operation as reoccurring events, widely held as the inception of the Venice International Film Festival (Venice Biennale[3]) in 1932, there has been very little serious academia applied to the phenomenon. [4] This lack of attention has been recognised by a certain set of academics, predominantly based around the University of St Andrews in Scotland and Amsterdam University in the Netherlands. The clearest marker of its under-exposure as a discipline can be seen in Marijke de Valck and Skadi Loist’s 2009 essay, ‘Film Festival Studies: An Overview of a Burgeoning Field’, which serves as a call to arms, as well as an extended bibliography and overview of the research already undertaken. The fact that all this information can fit into one chapter written in 2009 attests to how under-studied the field is. So young in fact is the field, that when de Valck (2007) highlights the existence and significance of film festivals as a network, she states that 'this research takes the first step towards understanding the festival circuit as a network' (de Valck 2007: 17 – italics added). The assertion of this being a ‘first step’, and is over half a century of a network having existed, really shows the infancy of the field.[5] This is not to say that it was the first time festivals had been examined at all, just that de Valck believes it is only recently that there has been any consensus on the significance of their operation as a network. De Valck is a pioneering figure in this field and as will be evident throughout this essay, she is integral to current movements, but there were instances prior to her assertion of a ‘first step’ that investigated this network. Premiere amongst them is Thomas Elsaesser (2005), who focuses on how the specifically European functions of the film festival network operate in opposition to the dominance of Hollywood:
With respect to Europe, the festival circuit, I want to claim, has become the key force and power grid in the film business, with wide-reaching consequences for the respective functioning of the other elements (authorship, production, exhibition, cultural prestige and recognition) pertaining to the cinema and to film culture.
(Elsaesser 2005a: 83)
It is important to remember, throughout this essay, what Elsaesser alludes to here; that a distribution network has ramifications for other factors within a film’s cycle of existence, and thus the distribution system has a direct influence on the type of films produced across the world. He goes on to explain how this circuit is integral to challenging Hollywood’s hegemonic grip on global film culture: ‘the festival circuits hold the keys to all forms of cinema not bound into the global Hollywood network’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 88). He specifies the interconnected nature of the festival circuit as integral to its functioning. The festival network, far from the top down approach typified by Hollywood, ensures that the balance of power is spread throughout the nodes of the network, and individual decision makers are involved at every step. These individuals programme their festivals in a personal manner - albeit with varying degrees of autonomy - which encapsulates their personal tastes and, to their discretion, can be topical and enter into other socio-political discourses, or set cinematic agendas. He summarises:
Film festivals thus have in effect created one of the most interesting public spheres available in the cultural field today... The fact that festivals are programmed events, rather than fixed rituals, together with their annual, recurring nature means that they can be responsive and quick in picking up topical issues, and put together a special thematic focus with half a dozen film titles, which may include putting together a retrospective.
(Elsaesser 2005a: 101)
This ‘public sphere’, comprising of these ‘programmed events’, goes on to have a wide influence on global cinema, as they determine what films play in the art-house cinemas throughout the world. Although this identifies the influence and therefore power of the circuit, Elsaesser accuses the uniform, agenda-setting distribution resulting from such a system as acting in a similar fashion to the homogenising Hollywood system: ‘just as one finds the same Hollywood movies showing in cinemas all over the world, chances are that the same five or six art cinema hits will also be featured internationally... with merely the difference in scale and audience distinguishing the blockbuster from the auteur film or “indie” movie’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 92). Due to the double edged sword of the film festival network’s power and influence, alternative concepts must be sought to ensure the progressive nature of cinema as an art form, and combat not only Hollywood, but an increasingly predictable ‘alternative’ system, which could reduce world cinema to a handful of marketable art-house hits. In order to maintain their significance in this system, film festivals need to constantly reinvent themselves as an alternative to the alternative. In the increasing number of smaller B-list film festivals, a remedy can be found to the potential uniformity and monotony of both Hollywood and art-house distribution dictated to by A-list film festivals (see below for the significance of the split between A-list and B-list), as these smaller festivals are set up by individuals with a view to provide what is currently perceived to be lacking. De Valck points out that the festival circuit exists because of, and creates a platform for, films that ‘do not (yet) have the commercial potential to be distributed while they are of special interest to the niche community of film lovers that visit festivals' (de Valck 2007: 104). Film Festivals are able to achieve this, where other forms of distribution struggle, because of their unique nature as events. She refers to the social theorists Jonathan Crary and Walter Benjamin’s writings, on the ‘changing nature of subjectivity throughout the 19th century’ and  ‘the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ respectively. She argues that they are useful when considering the spectacle of film festivals as events, as it affords the festival its own unique zone, where it can increase the relative significance of what it presents:
Crary and Benjamin's work provide the necessary conceptual backdrop in this study of linking the exhibition context of the cinema of attractions to the phenomenon of film festivals. I will argue that “spectacle” is important in holding both the audience’s and media’s attention. From the perspective of perception, the growth of film festivals can be explained by referring to the increasing importance of “experience” in contemporary culture.
(de Valck 2007: 19)
This ‘cinema of attraction’, the drawing of attention onto the film festival for audiences and the media is important throughout every phase of the film festival for varying reasons. It was important to the cinephile film programmers of the 1970s, raising awareness of the specific programme of films they had curated. Similarly, it was important when towns and cities in which film festivals increasingly populated during the 1980s and 1990s utilised film festivals’ level of spectacle to raise their profile as culturally significant locations, leading to the situation where film programmers could use this platform to bring their taste in world cinema to wider and more varied audiences. Even from their inception, film festivals were used as spectacular events, as nation-states and global ideologies used them to flex their status in the world.
A significant rift within film festivals centres on the distinction between A-list and B-list festivals.[6] Put simply, the A-list festivals have been deemed by The International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) as being more important than an exponentially increasing amount of smaller festivals. The system was erected, in large part to counter awards inflation and ensure that established pillars in the network maintained their power and influence. Focusing only on ‘competitive feature film festivals’, the first A-list festivals were the Cannes Film Festival (Cannes) and the Venice Biennale, quickly followed by the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), with more added throughout the years, including international film festivals in Karlovy Vary, Locarno, San Sebastian, Mar Del Plata, Moscow, Cairo, Tokyo and Shanghai (de Valck 2007: 41-42). This rift is relevant to the role of film festivals in agenda-setting, as it is the films that play at the A-list festivals - particularly if they play in competition - that are set to dominate art-house cinema schedules. B-list festivals have little chance of securing such films, as the films’ producers, sales agents and/or already assigned distributors seek to secure the global exposure afforded by inclusion in the A-lists. It will be postulated throughout this essay that B-list festivals are just as important as those on the A-list. They don’t make the A-list redundant, but there exists a constant state of counter-hegemonic renegotiation and an ever-altering symbiosis where the large A-list festival, without the challenge of the small B-list festivals, would not be pushed to achieve their cinephilic goals and responsibilities. Further, the economic potential of the larger festival films that dominate the A-lists generate interest from, and emulation by, Hollywood, thus counter-hegemonically diversifying its output.

Useful Theoretical Frameworks: Postmodernism’s little narratives and their role in neo-Gramscian counter-hegemony

Before going through some of the specific historic developments of the film festival network, it is important to ground some of the theoretical framework that has already been alluded to, and will help in reading the significance of certain developments.
The concept of postmodernism has been highly contested in its short history. It has been used in a wide variety of contexts and situations. Due to this widespread use and its infection into so many discourses, it has been difficult to ground, which John Storey (1998) explains leads some to imply that it has no meaning. Inspired by Dick Hebdige, Storey believes quite the contrary to this: ‘When a term has entered so many debates and discourses, it must be articulating something fundamental’ (1998: 345). In order to use such an elusive term with any degree of confidence and clarity in this work, it is important to extract its fundamental values and define, without descending into an examination of the wider issues surrounding the definition of the term, how these values can be useful when studying developments in the film festival network. The easiest way to achieve this is to focus on one element, that of Jean-François Lyotard’s (1979) examination of the emerging importance of ‘little narratives’. The postmodern is essentially a break from the modern - the value systems and structures that have guided society and culture since the enlightenment. Lyotard explains that this era of modernity was dominated by imposing sets of values, which he describes as grand narratives, or metanarratives. These grand narratives create subjects out of individuals and force them to identify within their narrow boundaries.[7] He is explicit in his assertion that postmodern theory represents the breakdown of these imposing sets of values: ‘I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives’ (1979: xxiv – italics in original). Lyotard proposes that in place of these metanarratives are many little narratives that compete in the creation of culture and meaning, leaving a greater possibility for a more equal society.
Throughout this essay, the grand narratives of modernity will be read as synonymous with the entrenched structures in global film distribution, encapsulated by Hollywood, as well as, but to a lesser extent, the large and imposing A-list film festivals. In opposition to these grand narratives, the exponential proliferation of specialist, niche interest, or smaller festivals in new geographic locations will be read as little narratives that weave together to co-create a narrative, influencing all throughout the system.
Rather than an imagined complete shift from grand to little narratives, in practice this is a continuing process. The power of grand narratives is not abolished, simply eroded, and therefore further theoretical framework helps to see the process of negotiation present in global film distribution. In a manner inspired by Douglass Kellner’s (1995) insistence on using postmodern theory fused with established cultural studies in order to ground the concept and understand its implications for society, a neo-Gramscian position can explain how the many little narratives can influence the actions of the more influential grand narratives, via a process of counter-hegemony. Dominic Strinati sets Gramsci’s theory of hegemony apart from a traditional Marxist model of society where classes are clearly defined, rigid and non-negotiable: ‘[I]t is perhaps best to think of hegemony as a contested and shifting set of ideas by means of which dominant groups strive to secure the consent of subordinate groups to their leadership, rather than as a consistent and functional ideology working in the interests of a ruling class by indoctrinating subordinate groups’ (Strinati 1995: 170-171). The neo-Gramscian model’s move to coercion and away from indoctrination by grand narratives, whilst still appreciating the existence of political economy and the presence of a ruling class, illustrates the convergence of modern and postmodern theory proposed by Kellner. He highlights hegemony’s relevance to this approach by stating that it ‘has no guarantees, no teleologies, no grand narrative of emancipation, no totalizing or reductive discourses of politics... no home or solid basis from which to struggle, but still holds on to the hope that new solidarities, new forms of struggles, will emerge’ (Kellner 1995: 45). These new solidarities and struggles will emerge because hegemony is - as Strinati defined above - a ‘contested and shifting set of ideas’. A classic reading of hegemony would seek to illustrate how the dominant narratives prominent in Hollywood movies, impart their values through coercion across the globe in an act of cultural imperialism. Whereas a notion of counter-hegemony, in the same context, seeks to investigate how the reverse is true; how the proliferation of alternative world-views permeates the establishment and encourages a more broad and varied output of world-views from the mainstream.

Introducing Cinephilia: The significance of cinephilic discovery

The emphasis that will be placed on reinvention and innovation in the film festival network requires a specific examination of the way that cinephiles are embedded in film festival activity. Any developments in the history of film distribution that have challenged the status quo and exhibited forward-thinking, have required cinephiles, spellbound by the magic of cinema, to make a contribution. The influence of this spellbinding is evident even outside of the direct running of festivals themselves. Cinephilia can be seen just as prominently in areas such as academia, as is evident when using de Valck as an example. On the subject of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) She explains that: '[m]y first memory of the festival is the feeling of being pleasantly overwhelmed by the many unknown cinematic forms, the intelligent, unconventional stories, and the exotic cultures of which the films allowed us to glimpse' (de Valck 2007: 13). This festival therefore inducted her into this state of near worship of the cinema at a young age and she now stands at the forefront of the movement to have this phenomenon treated in academia with the respect she deems appropriate; thus, raising the film festival network’s significance and maintaining its challenging nature.
Before examining cinephilia’s impact on the development of the global film festival network, the term itself must be defined. De Valck and Hagener (2005) refer to the way cinephilia 'alludes to the universal phenomenon that the film experience evokes particular sensations of intense pleasure resulting in strongly felt connection with the cinema, often described as a relation of love. Cinephiles worldwide continue to be captured and enraptured by the magic of moving images' (de Valck and Hagener 2005: 11). This universality is integral to a global network like that of film festivals. Cinephilia has been prevalent in film criticism and academia for over half a century and played a major part in the developments surrounding the influential French film journal Cahiers du Cinema, and subsequent rise of the Nouvelle Vague.[8] Cinephilia played a major role in the global links established by these French critics. Elsaesser (2005b) explains the cinephilic joy in discovery experienced by these critics, who closely examined filmmakers that were either alien to them, or previously suppressed. He sees this as part of a trans-Atlantic communication that took place over several decades beginning at the end of the Second World War:
The initial spatial displacement was the transatlantic passage of Hollywood films after World War II to a newly liberated France, whose audiences avidly caught up with the movies the German occupation had embargoed... In the early 1960s, the transatlantic passage went in the opposite direction, when the discourse of auteurism travelled from Paris to New York, followed by yet another change of direction, from New York back to Europe in the 1970s.
(Elsaesser 2005b: 30)
Elsaesser expands on this trans-Atlantic process, as the Nouvelle Vague critics like André Bazin, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut elevated the artistic status of films by American filmmakers such as Orson Welles and John Ford. These American filmmakers had an influence on the Nouvelle Vague as they turned to filmmaking themselves. This, along with their writing, travelled back across the Atlantic to inspire a generation of American cinephile filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola, who raised the profile of several European directors in America, only, Elsaesser continues, for them to then be rediscovered in Europe. This illustrates how discovery becomes an embedded system relying on cinephiles’ determination to inspire others into a similar, yet still personally developed admiration for cinema. This process of discovery, then presentation and introduction is central to the act of film programming. For a study of this process, and to acknowledge that it is not restricted to ‘festivals’, the legendary work undertaken by Amos Vogel at Cinema 16 will be highlighted.
The case of Amos Vogel continues the theme of transatlantic cultural influence, as Vogel, having experienced the European ciné-clubs in his native Austria before his family fled from the rise of the Nazi Party, recreated and surpassed what he had experienced by forming the highly influential film society Cinema 16 in New York, then going on to be integral in the establishment of the New York Film Festival.[9] It was not only the size and scale of Cinema 16 - which at its height had around seven thousand members - but its approach to programming and the philosophy with which Vogel presented films to the audience, that make it such an important historical landmark. Not only did Cinema 16 specialise in showing avant-garde films, documentaries and other suppressed or overlooked cinema, but all steps necessary were taken to ensure that these films were shared with as wide an audience as possible.[10] Writing comprehensively on the development of Cinema 16, Scott MacDonald (1996) states that it is ‘evident in the language of the "Statement of Purposes" that Vogel did not see his project as marginal in any way; his goal was to service a "vast potential audience."' (MacDonald 1996: 5). Vogel was passionate about the transformative and inspirational potential of film and believed that the system of mainstream film distribution around him at the time was failing to supply the populace with not only what he considered to be important, but evidenced by the popularity of the society, what the audience wanted. Macdonald describes Vogel as ‘above all, an audience builder, a teacher, and a political motivator. For him, the challenge was to use the widest articulation of film practice as a means of invigorating viewers' interest in cinema and their willingness to use what they learned at Cinema 16 in their everyday lives as citizens of the United States and the world' (MacDonald 1996: 19). This is the type of mentality that drives the network of film festival programmers, determined to introduce others to the cinema that has moved them. Vogel, determined to reach even more with his Cinema 16 selection, went on to develop a distribution network. In 1951 Cinema 16 supplied twenty experimental films. In 1963, the year that Cinema 16 ceased to operate, they had a catalogue of forty seven pages, containing over two hundred films, including avant-garde, animation, documentaries and feature films such as Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959) and Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street (1917) (Macdonald 1996: 16).
MacDonald highlights what Vogel achieved by emphasising what Cinema 16 ‘was able to accomplish in the era before government grants for film exhibition were even a fantasy' (MacDonald 1996: 1). By raising this point, Macdonald is practicing the same cinephilic quality of discovery, as he is showing a desire, in light of what he described at the time of writing as increasing government austerity and declining arts funding, to pass this discovery on and inspire others to effect further change.[11] He declares: ‘My hope is that this volume will help stimulate in some of those who read it, not merely an admiration of Cinema 16, but a desire to emulate it' (MacDonald 1996: 29).
Macdonald concedes that the media-world in which we currently exist is completely different to that experienced by Cinema 16 audiences, who had severely limited exposure to the material shown: 'While we may never return to the situation Vogel found himself in during the late 1940s, where large numbers of people had almost no access to a wide range of film forms and were hungry for exposure, there is no reason that the current situation cannot improve substantially’ (MacDonald 1996: 29). The task, therefore, is to see what lessons can be learned, but situate such lessons within the context of a different media-landscape. One fundamental lesson is that Vogel’s emphasis was always on the audience. In an interview with Macdonald, he stresses: 'This idea worked, not because of my excellence as a programmer or anything like that, but because historical circumstances allowed Cinema 16 to fulfil a real social need' (Vogel cited in MacDonald 1996: 41). This attention to the ‘needs’ of audiences is fundamental to examining cinephilia’s changing form.

Changing Cinephilia: Adapting to suit its cultural surroundings

In a personal – which is an important factor when considering such a phenomenon - overview of the changing face of cinephilia, Thomas Elsaesser (2005b) gives an in-depth and reflexive account of what he terms ‘cinephilia take one’. He uses this term to describe a period of time around the 1960s, when the Cahiers du Cinema critics had helped put the term cinephilia in the public consciousness. Many followed the examples they set, immersing themselves in ciné-clubs and hard to reach cinemas in some of the larger European and North American cities. Elsaesser goes on to unfavourably compare to this ‘cinephilia take one’, the current state of cinephilia, which he terms ‘cinephilia take two’. He raises some of the most prominent issues leading to this change, including the emergence of videotapes, the internet, late night television and many other social and technological developments, all of which result in decreasing scarcity, leading to an alleged over-abundance of cinema. With reference to discovery - which has been highlighted above as integral to cinephilia - he explains that in cinephilia take one, different cinematic experiences were less accessible and therefore it was a privilege to be subjected to them, and it was from here that excitement was drawn. Explaining the current situation, he notes that 'even harder is it to now locate what I have called the semiotic gap that enables either unexpected discovery, the shock of revelation, or the play of anticipation and disappointment’ (Elsaesser 2005b: 37). Yet, despite his disparaging tone, this privileging of his own formative experiences is acknowledged as biased: This may, however, be the jaded view of a superannuated cinephile take one, unable to "master" his disenchantment' (Elsaesser 2005b: 38). In a further attempt to add nuance to his argument, and understand rather than dismiss this cinephilia take two, he comes some way to looking more objectively at the changes, and what differentiates, yet connects the two phases of cinephilia:
Against "trepidation in anticipation" (take one), the agitation of cinephilia take two might best be described by the terms "stressed/distressed," having to live in a non-linear, non-directional "too much/all at once" state of permanent tension, not so much about missing the unique moment, but almost its opposite, namely about how to cope with a flow that knows no privileged points of capture at all, and yet seeks that special sense of self-presence that love promises and sometimes provides.
(Elsaesser 2005b: 39)
What this highlights, is that although the overabundance of possibilities is something of a drastic change to the landscape, the fundamental act of discovery is still pertinent. The problem Elsaesser raises, of receiving ‘too much/all at once’, can be – and is – remedied through curation. Cinephiles around the world are sifting through this abundance of content, effectively acting as filters, creating their own programmes, highlighting what has affected them and passing this on to those next in the many chains and nodes of a global, interconnected film festival network. Cinephilia take two, in this respect, embodies the idea that little narratives, working together, negotiating with one another and crossing paths are more prominent and therefore this more pluralist way of generating cultural meaning is circumventing the access routes of the grand narratives. It must be noted that the utopian rhetoric of this approach can be tempered by the fact that there are individuals still in control of what is deemed appropriate, effectively controlling taste. But the significance is that there is an increasing amount of these little narratives and an increasing opportunity to become one of them. On a micro-level there are individuals using their own passion and human instincts, but then on a macro-level, because each decision is part of a network, the complete construction of the network brings a more varied array of taste that better reflects disparate views outside of accepted canon.
In addition to Elsaesser’s seemingly reluctant acknowledgment of this second wave of cinephilia’s benefits, others have paid further attention to some of the specific changes he highlighted. Having more directly experienced ‘cinephilia take two’, de Valck and Hagener (2005) explain that the new technologies and developments such as ‘film festivals, late-night television, home entertainment centres, and Internet groups' (de Valck and Hagener 2005: 20) have enabled a ‘more active kind of reception in which cinephiles encounter and discuss films in new settings’ (de Valck and Hagener 2005: 20). A similar, though opposite, favouring of one cinephilia over the other appears evident, as they highlight the more utopian qualities of take two cinephilia as preferable to the elitist snobbery that they imply the previous era can readily be accused of. They refer to this new cinephilia’s ‘varied use of different technologies, communication channels, and exhibition formats, the contemporary way of remembering is far more accessible than the practice ever was in the 1960s when it was basically limited to a handful of western metropolises' (de Valck and Hagener 2005: 22). This increased access and availability spans social/class divides as well as geographic considerations, extending to towns, cities and villages outside the established ‘metropolises’, as well as, in a global context, connecting countries and their accompanying national film aesthetics that were previously less well connected. It is significant that the above list of ‘new’ developments includes film festivals; despite being present in cinephilia take one, they are included because the global network of film festivals has changed drastically in line with such changes in cinephilia, as will be illustrated later.
Ben Slater (2007) in an article for Screen International similarly defines cinephilia take two as more pluralist and accessible, enabling film to project to, and be projected by, different societies, demographics and communities around the world. In line with that which was raised earlier, regarding the increasingly unchallenging nature of regular alternative distribution, in an account of ‘new cinephiles’ he attacks the perceived hegemony of Hollywood, as well as the increasingly less radical annual programmes of Western art-house cinemas by implying that neglected cinematic regions can now better represent themselves:
As a reaction against both the Hollywood hegemony and the chauvinism of the classic arthouse canon, young cinephiles who live in the cinematically less well-travelled regions (south-east Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East) are able to reconsider the films of their home countries in a level of depth and detail that visiting programmers and critics can never muster.
(Slater 2007)
Returning to the cinephilic desire to discover, and then pass on, the ability of such underrepresented communities to raise the awareness of their stories and different cinematic aesthetics is enhanced by the many access routes to the film festival network, where other cinephiles can be inspired and then pass on their discoveries. The problem here, with respect to Slater’s point, is that it then relies on ‘visiting programmers’, which Slater sets against this process. But the fusing of the two is what creates the most radical change. Just as Kellner fuses the modern with the postmodern, the same theory can be applied here, allowing more disparate voices access to what is already a healthy, established and influential system, in the film festival network.
Considering the potential impact it could have on the film festival network, the internet’s affect on cinephilia should be given special mention. Melis Behlil (2005) declares that the new breed of cinephilia feeds itself intellectually through the technology of the internet’ (Behlil 2005: 113). She focuses on the way online communities broaden cinephilia’s reach to more than those based in large cities, as was the case during cinephilia take one. She explains that ‘[v]arious sites on the net... provide a space for cinephiles to get together and exchange ideas' (Behlil 2005: 113). She argues that this ability to come together, discuss, argue, influence others and be influenced by others, is comparable to the ciné-clubs that defined cinephilia take one, but this new medium can entice a broader spectrum of influence. Slater expands on this, focusing on the influence these developments have on the global discourse of film taste. He describes the internet as:
[A] place for communication and discussion, and a platform to publish ideas and opinions via blogs, of which a startling amount are devoted to film. The new cinephile no longer aspires to be a critic at a major newspaper or magazine; if you have a distinctive set of interests, a decent prose style, and are prepared to go online, then a readership will surely follow; and no-one will judge you for your relative inexperience. Meanwhile, cinephile journalists, frustrated with diminishing space for film in print, are starting to blog independently. The boundaries between the professional and amateur cinephile have begun to blur.
(Slater 2007)
This exodus of established journalists from the recognised, old media pillars of newspapers - themselves an embodiment of modernity - to satisfy their urge for increased freedom to express their own little narratives and exact a more unbridled and personal cinephilia, free of editorial control, mirrors the dissemination of film festivals throughout the world. To illustrate this point, examples like the New York Times as a publisher, or Cannes as a film festival still dominate the popular discourse, but there is a growing resistance, not from any individual online publication or specific smaller film festival, but from the cumulative influence of many online sources, or the network of many smaller film festivals. Though not supplanting these established forms, they are having a counter-hegemonic influence on them as their growing numbers and influence forces the established forms to emulate their successful practices.
Situating these online developments within the context of the film festival network, Chris Anderson’s (2006) theories of ‘the long tail’ become an appropriate consideration. Anderson explains that developments in digital distribution have weakened the need to create ‘hits’, as they were only initially created for large media corporations to reap as much profit from the limited ‘shelf space’ available.[12] He argues that online access to media, without such physical constraints allows increasing access to niche interest content. He emphasises the economic insinuations deriving from such a situation as the small amount of profit from the many different niche titles equates to the large amounts of individual profit from the fewer amount of homogenous hits. This shift from the dominance of a few, to the collative power of many competing items once again illustrates the move from grand narratives to little narratives. And the economic justification forces the counter-hegemonic influence on the large media owners who now recognise that niche interests, and the accompanying variety of world-views, are profitable.
Shifting the emphasis towards digital retail and away from the constraints of the physical might be considered detrimental to the definitively physical space of the film festival, but it can also be read to the contrary. Anderson explains: 'As demand shifts toward niches, the economics of providing them improve further, and so on, creating a positive feedback loop that will transform entire industries - and the culture - for decades to come' (Anderson 2006: 26). The rising interest in, and demand for, niche titles, for which film festivals have increasingly become the chief exhibitor of, will lead people to seek them out at these recognisable, specialised events. De Valck recognises the significance of this development, conceding that ‘digital distribution and ‘The Long Tail’ model offer commercial opportunities that festivals simply cannot match’ (de Valck 2008: 22). Yet de Valck goes on to add that, as this essay will suggest is one of the film festival’s greatest features, it is a curated event. She states: ‘With ‘difficult’ products – which counts for many films screened at film festivals – people are not very likely to go and look for these films without prior knowledge or intermediary advice. It is wishful thinking of a culturally educated and intellectual elite that when quality films are more readily available the tastes of people will change accordingly’ (de Valck 2008: 19). This is where the layers of cinephilia active in the film festival network become so important. Festivals seek out the content that is hidden from the general populace, and although it is accessible somewhere, people will neither know where to look, nor that they even want to look for it. De Valck goes further, explaining that far from being a threat, this development could in fact work in conjunction with film festival distribution. Festival-goers, having been introduced to new cinematic experiences, will seek more of the same: ‘Digital distribution might prove to be the perfect companion to actual festival events, creating opportunities for further expansion and consolidation of the circulation of niche films among worldwide audiences’ (de Valck 2008: 22).
Having outlined some of the fundamental principles of the film festival network, and some of the key theoretical frameworks that can help us ascertain their significance, these developments will be placed into context throughout the history of film festivals. This will focus specifically on three stages: the ‘geopolitical origins’ in the 1930s, the ‘age of the programmer’ following 1968 and the ‘professional age’, running from the 1980s to the present. Each phase will be contextualised within the socio-political landscape at that time and how this landscape was reflected in the changing forms of cinephilia.

Early Developments: The geopolitical origins of the network

Before illustrating how geopolitical considerations dominated the early developments of the major film festivals, it is important not to lose sight of their origins in cinephile practice. De Valck highlights the influence that European film societies and ciné-clubs had on these early developments: 'The national and transnational networks of the pre-Second World War cinema avant-garde contributed to the emergence of the phenomenon of film festivals. The film clubs and societies… offered non-commercial exhibition opportunities for all kinds of "artistic" films from roughly 1919 onwards’ (de Valck 2007: 25). What is also important to remember is that such networks had an influence on Amos Vogel and therefore subsequent developments of Cinema 16 and the New York Film Festival, introducing already the non-linear chains of influence beginning to develop in global film distribution.
The first film festivals were set up as an exhibition and distribution alternative to the increasingly dominant Hollywood. Already powerful in global cinema, Hollywood’s ability to set the global cinematic agenda was strengthened by America’s relative shelter - in comparison to Europe - from the devastation of the First and the Second World Wars. De Valck and Loist highlight this emphasis on the festival network’s opposition to Hollywood dominance, whilst simultaneously introducing the links between them, stating that ‘early European festivals emerged as solution to and in cooperation with hegemonic Hollywood' (de Valck and Loist 2009: 214). In this respect, although they were to raise the agenda of other types of particularly European film, the reliance on stars, spectacle, gossip and other personifications of Hollywood excess were emulated. The fact that these issues continue to dominate the A-list festivals today illustrates how this balance between being part of, yet against a dominant ideology has been a constant throughout the development of the film festival network.[13]
As noted earlier, it is widely acknowledged that the very beginning of what would become the reoccurring film festival was the Venice Biennale, setting the agenda, and setting the template for those that followed. It is also widely acknowledged that the Venice Biennale began, not simply to showcase cinematic talent, but to showcase the might of Fascism in Mussolini’s Italy. De Valck explains that ‘Mussolini believed that the film festival would give him a powerful international instrument for the legitimization of the national identity of Fascism’ (de Valck 2007: 47). Further revealing the close relationship between the cultural agenda of film exhibition and the complex twentieth century relationships of nation-states, the Cannes Film Festival (Cannes) was set up by nations that would go on to become the brunt of the allied forces that combated fascism during the Second World War. De Valck explicitly states that Cannes originated in opposition to the dominance of Fascism at the Venice Biennale, after explaining the apparent bias of competition winners at the festival: ‘This display of prejudice towards Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy pushed the dissatisfaction of other participating countries to a climax and led the French, British, and Americans to join forces and found a counter-festival in Cannes’ (de Valck 2007: 48). Although Cannes was set up prior to the Second World War, its first instalment was in fact stopped short due to the outbreak of the war. When it was to reconvene in 1947, it lost none of its geopolitical significance as a beacon of resistance to Fascism. This led to de Valck’s speculation that during this time, film festivals were entangled in an attempt to use culture to remedy Europe’s psychological scars left from World War Two: ‘The traumatized European nations were eager to develop initiatives that would help them regain their proud national identities’ (de Valck 2007: 56). This is also applicable to the significance that this era would place on national identity in the competing films, a point that will be returned to later.
The Venice Biennale and Cannes were not the only festivals contributing to this renegotiation of national identities, or not the only ones that were formed with such steeply political motivations. What would become yet another A-list festival, the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) was also founded serving a geopolitical agenda, as a product of the Cold War. Elsaesser explains that it ‘was a creation of the Cold War, and planned as a deliberate showcase for Hollywood glamour and Western show business, meant to provoke East Berlin and to needle the Soviet Union’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 84). This reifies what de Valck states above regarding the blurred lines between opposition and cooperation between Hollywood values and the film festival network.
This national showcasing not only encompassed the way the festivals represent the nations within which they are based, but was also evident in the films that were entered into competition, which were explicitly selected by national bodies as representatives of that particular nation. As de Valck notes: 'the post-war European nations began to organize film festivals as events where films were exhibited as an expression of national identity and culture. Here economic considerations did not rule the programming' (de Valck 2007: 92). This disregard for economic considerations was a major differentiation from Hollywood, favouring instead, the need for nations to find themselves through the cultural artefacts of film.

Post 1968: The age of the programmer

Just as with the geopolitical origins of the film festival network, the next phase of its development follows socio-cultural shifts seemingly unrelated to cinema. The geopolitical era’s focus on the nation-state was to be drastically diminished towards the end of the 1960s and entering the 1970s. This period in history is notorious for the rise of post-structuralism, leading to ideas such as Lyotard’s abovementioned postmodern little narratives challenging the dominance of modernity’s grand narratives. This appropriately translates to the diminishing influence that nation-states - themselves an embodiment of modernity’s grand narratives – had on the organizing and programming of film festivals, as they were increasingly replaced by the little narratives of individual programmers, autonomous from the state and allowed to implant their own identity onto their festivals.
Matthew Lloyd (2011), in his book dedicated to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) during this period, proclaims that the FIAPF A-list film festivals were exposed as 'antiquated, out-of-touch and artistically compromised’ (Lloyd 2011: 35). Lloyd uses this revelation as a backdrop to the changes that occurred at the EIFF, but places these changes within a frame of wider structural transformations in the film festival network. Peter Stanfield (2008), also writing about the EIFF, explains that during the 1970s, in line with external developments in the film festival network, it redefined its own destiny: ‘Against the grain, the Festival gave a platform to film theory, experimental film, new European and world cinema, maverick film-makers and American exploitation movies’ (Stanfield 2008: 63). Some of these changes came at the behest of the cinephile programmers that seized control. This will be returned to after predicating these developments with factors external to the film festival network.
A culmination of emerging social changes throughout the 1960s came in May 1968, particularly, though not exclusively, in Paris and throughout France. The filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague, referred to above with respect to their influence on cinephilia, had become integral, not only to French cinema, but to the redefinition of cinema itself. They brought the events of May 1968 to the film festival agenda. During Cannes that year, they vehemently believed that the festival should share the struggle faced by the workers and students throughout France. Thus, Lloyd explains that ‘[i]n May 1968, a group of young filmmakers led by the Nouvelle Vague directors Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut brought the Cannes Film Festival to a premature halt’ (Lloyd 2011: 11). This halt seemed to act as a line drawn in the sand. Not only was it halting that particular festival at that specific time, but it was marking an end to an ‘antiquated’ way of running festivals. Elsaesser credits the changes of this historical period for ensuring that film festivals became the boundary-pushing entity that their potential could allow: ‘The boom in new film festivals, lest we forget, started in the 1970s. Many of the creative as well as critical impulses that drove festivals to devote themselves to non-commercial films, to the avant-garde and to independent filmmaking are owed to the post-’68 counter-culture of political protest and militant activism’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 100).
Lloyd and Stanfield both complement their account of the EIFF‘s rise with this post-68 period. They both explain that the festival had become a mediocre, unspectacular affair; a far cry from the innovative days of its inception in 1947. Stanfield remarks: ‘By the mid to late 1960s the Festival had become a dull affair’ (Stanfield 2008: 64). He explains that this fundamentally changed in that titular year of 1968, with the appointment of a new director, Murray Grigor, who ‘helped to instigate a more proactive programming policy, with the Festival organizers now selecting the films’ (Stanfield 2008: 64). This appointment quickly brought with it a shift of focus, as the festival’s unspectacular existence made way for a younger and fresher approach. Grigor’s appointment at this tumultuous time was made all the more clear by his immediate attempts to change the tone of the festival, explains Stanfield:
The ‘young idea’ was driven by Grigor’s recruitment of two cinephiles and Edinburgh University undergraduates Lynda Myles and David Will. They were responsible for running the university’s film society and had come to Grigor’s attention when they wrote an angry letter to the Scotsman denouncing the Festival’s conservative programming.
(Stanfield 2008: 64)
The fact that the university’s film society allowed these cinephiles a route into the interconnected global film festival network shows once again that film societies are an integral part of this network of cinephiles. This new creative force didn’t only make minor amendments to the festival, but completely redefined it, in tandem with the period's newly burgeoning cinephilia. An explicit example of this was the retrospective given to Sam Fuller, a filmmaker synonymous with American B-Movies and disdained by the conservative predecessors of this new programming team. Stanfield explains how ‘[t]he organizers were putting on a show of bravado, the unequivocal claim that Fuller was an important film director and his films were obligatory viewing was made in the face of what they knew would be disbelief on the part of the old guard of festival patrons and cynical film fans’ (Stanfield 2008: 65). This notion of sheer defiance was very much part of this period and was reflected in many films released at the time, typified by the British film If (Lindsay Anderson), itself released in 1968 and having its relevance recognized by going on to win the top prize - the Palm d’Or - at the newly reinvigorated Cannes of 1969 (the significance of this reinvigoration is covered below).[14] This new phase of film festival custodians were following the Cahiers critics in raising the status of hitherto considered inartistic filmmakers, in the process embodying the cinephile preoccupation with discovering and sharing, whilst simultaneously attacking the ‘old guard’. By attacking the established notion of film appreciation at the time, this example is comparable with the shift from ‘take one' to ‘take two' cinephilia underlined by Elsaesser. Except this era's cinephilia is the one that Elsaesser termed ‘take one’. This illustrates the way that cinephilia repeatedly redefines itself, staying fresh and applicable to its contemporary social structure, whilst always having the challenging potential of cinema as its main concern. In a direct connection to the Paris-based scene of cinephiles, and further evidence of the networked cultural connections of this generation, this team of EIFF programmers were guided by the French figure of Henri Langlois[15] (Stanfield 2008: 66). So prominent was cinephilia in this whole movement that one of EIFF’s appointed directors, Lynda Moyles viewed this love for cinema as indistinguishable from living: ‘The 1960s cinephilia was not just a passing affair; it was, Myles was later to reflect, ‘as important as breathing’’ (Stanfield 2008: 66).
During this era, new festivals appeared, like the International Film Festival Rotterdam IFFR,[16] and festivals reinvented themselves, like the EIFF, but there were also direct attacks on the A-list festivals in this post-68 context. Kenneth Turan (2008) points to the significance of the creation in 1969 - immediately following Cannes’ 1968 shutdown - of the independently ran sidebar event Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (or Directors’ Fortnight), describing it as a ‘tangible result of this upheaval’ (Turan 2002: 19). Turan adds that this sidebar event ‘continues to compete with the official festival for films and has consistently shown edgier fare’ (Turan 2002: 19). Further, de Valck describes a similar situation at Berlinale. In 1971, in line with other developments mentioned above, the dubious geopolitical situation of a film festival serving as a ‘Western cultural showcase for the East’ (de Valck 2007: 52) was seriously challenged. One of the developments was the ‘establishment of a parallel festival, to be called Das Internationales Forum des jungen Films, [or, The Forum] where progressive cinema and young experimental directors could find a platform’ (de Valck 2007: 65). De Valck explains that this development meant that the ‘initial festival function of supporting the sovereignty of nation-states disappeared completely in this new type of festival... Instead, the festival director assumed a central role’ (65-66). Both these examples show how cinephiles, unsatisfied with the systems that face them, will take powers into their own hands to push the boundaries of cinema and ensure that it remains fresh and innovative. Although there were oppositional operations prior to 1968, such as International Critics’ Week that ran parallel to Cannes from 1962, it was after 1968 that the paradigm had been irreversibly shifted away from nation-states to cinephiles. Lloyd highlights the cohesion of this development when referring to the formation of the Fédération Internationale des Festivals Independents (FIFI), which ‘consisted of the new sidebar festivals created at Cannes and Berlin... alongside Edinburgh, Rotterdam and other festivals’ (Lloyd 2011: 45-46).
The emergence of these new, innovative film festivals formed a counter-hegemonic influence on the established festival world by forcing the large, A-list entities of Cannes and Berlin to be more daring in their approach to programming. Turan arrives at this conclusion when explaining that the influence that the Directors’ Fortnight had on Cannes: ‘The Quinzaine became such a threat to the festival that one of the first things Gilles Jacob did when he took over in 1978 was to start his own edgier, noncompetitive sidebar event called “Un Certain Regard”’ (Turan 2002: 20).
With the increasing proliferation of these smaller festivals in new territories, there is a further counter-hegemony broadening global film distribution. Cinephile programmers uncover the underexposed in their own regions or other regions previously under-represented, and bring these films to a wider audience, thus allowing more aesthetic styles, more world-views and more character types to be part of the global cinema discourse. This is what Elsaesser claims could happen during this period: ‘smaller countries were able to come to international attention via the promotion of new waves (with auteurs now representing the nation, instead of the officials who selected the national entry)’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 90-91). This proliferation of world views embodies Lyotard’s notion of the emerging little narratives.
During this period, in addition to these instances of counter-hegemony reinvigorating the film festival network’s challenging credentials, the festival network as a whole became larger, stronger and more influential, thus in a better position to enact a further counter-hegemonic influence on its opposition form of distribution, Hollywood. De Valck, in her chapter dedicated to the IFFR, one of the largest successes of the era describes this growing influence: ‘The success of festival programming strengthened the influence of film festivals as an alternative model for commercial theatrical exploitation of films in which the principle of the box office was substituted for cultural value' (de Valck 2007: 167). With this increasing influence then, and the multiple levels of counter-hegemony described above, it is evident that the cinephile contribution at the smallest nodes in the network can have an influence right throughout the entire system.

Cinephilia at Film Festivals: Curation as the remedy to abundance

Bill Nichols’ (1994) account of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will help to frame the impact of the ‘age of the programmer’, as well as transition into the ‘professional era’, illustrating the prevalence of cinephilia in film festival attendance.
Returning to Slater and his understanding of ‘new cinephiles’, it is evident that festivals, during an era characterised by abundance, are an important exhibition and scouting arena for cinephiles hungry for new cinematic experiences: ‘Here there is still the possibility for accidental discovery and revelation, and new cinephiles will be recruited into the fold (Slater 2007). This sense of discovery is the emphasis of Nichols’ seminal essay, highlighting the significance of film festivals over ten years before de Valck’s ‘first steps’ to understanding the film festival as a network. It has taken some time for the discipline to gain the momentum it currently possesses, but the fact that somebody as influential in film academia as Nichols wrote such a comprehensive, but personal account of the film festival experience aided its establishment. Nichols uses his influence to shed light on festivals, which he sees as imperative for accessing global cinema, but it seems as though the initial aim of his essay was more concerned with investigating trends in ‘New Iranian Cinema’. In the process of paying tribute to the efforts of the programmers at TIFF for putting such a retrospective programme together and ‘framing’ the view of New Iranian Cinema, he illustrates the importance of film festivals and their curation.
There are multiple levels of cinephilia at play here. There are those that have presented these Iranian films to the TIFF programmers, be it formally, informally, intentionally or accidentally. Then there are the TIFF programmers packaging what they have seen and using their festival to showcase this package, bound together in the specific context of ‘New Iranian Cinema’. Having had such a tightly curated programme presented to him, Nichols was then enthused to relay his experience to the kinds of film lovers that would read Film Quarterly. All throughout this process there is evidence of the discovery and sharing that is integral to cinephilia. Nichlols defines what he believes is significant about film festivals, and why they satisfy these distinct needs of cinephiles:
The hunger for the new, fuelled by those events and institutions that provide the commodities that imperfectly and temporarily satisfy it, also produces a distinct type of consumer and a historically specific sense of self. We seek out that which might transform us, often within an arena devoted to perpetuating this very search indefinitely.
(Nichols 1994: 20)
This hunger for experiencing something new is what has been presented above as a dominant theme that defines cinephilia. In this statement Nichols also highlights the temporally specific sense of place at festivals - like Valck’s emphasis on the festival as event. This is significant because part of the excitement of discovery is the finite nature of experience. For those that experienced ‘cinephilia take one’, the nostalgic longing for a return to the scarcity that produced it illustrates this quite well. Nichols stresses that part of the thrill of the festival-goer is uncovering the unknown, like a tourist: ’As tourists, or film festival-goers, we, too, seek to understand what others have made and to fathom the meaning it has for those who made it’ (Nichols 1994: 19). What could be extended upon from this point, is to not only think about the meaning it has for ‘those who made it’, but also for those who have chosen to highlight it; to take it from its locality and place it in an international context. Going further, Nichols compares this act to a form of anthropology, to a more immediate sense of experiencing a different and exciting new culture. He underpins this by identifying the two distinct, but interrelated approaches to such anthropology within film studies: ‘Recovering the strange as familiar takes two forms: first, acknowledgement of an international film style... [and] the retrieval of insights or lessons about a different culture (Nichols 1994: 18). He abbreviates this to ‘discovering form, inferring meaning’ (Nichols 1994: 18). These definitions will be returned to later with respect to the Bradford International Film Festival’s Uncharted States of America strand.
Nichols’ experience focuses attention onto something that is pivotal to this investigation of the film festival phenomenon in an era dominated by the ‘too much/all at once’ of Elsaesser’s ‘cinephilia take two’. This is the importance of curatorship. In this age of abundance, with films from all around the world widely accessible on home video and to watch instantly on the internet, often for free (legally or illegally), one of the key strengths of the programmed event is the curated compilation of films in a retrospective, thematic assortment or with a definitive aesthetic style.[17] This point is highlighted by de Valck, who suggests that this is a remedy to the state of ‘too much/all at once’: 'as the supply of images, words and sounds becomes too overwhelming in our contemporary media societies, the mediation of information flows becomes more and more important' (de Valck 2007: 196). Film festivals are in a prime position to take on such a task of mediation, and have the cinephiles willing and able to make it occur.
It was such a focus on Innovative and eclectic curation that made Cinema 16 the success that it was. On this point, Macdonald goes into some detail about the growing animosity between Vogel’s Cinema 16 and a group of New York based avant-garde filmmakers, The Film-Makers’ Cooperative, headed by Jonas Mekas. The conclusion reached by Macdonald, evidenced in both his own writing and as drawn from his interview with Vogel, is that Cinema 16’s system of appropriately selecting, filtering, framing and curating the films they played, had a greater impact than the approach taken by Mekas, who believed that every filmmaker should have the same opportunity to be seen. As admirable a notion as this is, it epitomizes the problem of abundance, and was described by Vogel as ‘self defeating’. He is cited as explaining:
It may be essential to show every single film to filmmakers at internal, workshop screenings so that they can see each other’s work; it is suicidal if this is done with general audiences... Unable to judge the works in advance or to rely on somebody else’s judgement (since no selection takes place), they ultimately decide to stay away.
(Vogel cited in MacDonald 1996: 19)
Vogel explains that this approach privileges the filmmaker over the audiences, whereas it was identified above that Vogel puts the audience above all.
One potential pitfall of such an emphasis on curation with respect to cinephilia must be highlighted. De Valck concedes that when retrospectives are curated and presented by one cinephile’s taste, it can be suggested that '[w]hat is left for the spectator, in this perspective, is a mere second-order cinephilia, presented on a plate, ready for consumption: a commodified mass cinephilia instead of privileged revelation' (de Valck 2007: 186). In addition to most of the research presented here showing the benefits of curation, it is difficult to conceive of some form of discovery that hasn’t been influenced by one individual or another, so it is difficult to define when privileged revelation becomes second-order cinephilia.

Film Festival Professionalization: Expanding cinephilia’s reach, whilst avoiding the ‘terror of Neoliberalism’[18]

Following the impact that film programming cinephiles had on the shape of the global film festival network, counter-hegemonically diffusing its reliance on nation-state decision making, the film festivals of the ‘professional era’ during the 1980s, 1990s and up to the present, continued this trajectory, yet adapted the way in which they were managed, seeking economically sustainable models in an increasingly expanding population of festivals. Julian Stringer (2001) wrote about the role of ‘the city’ in the proliferation of film festivals during this period. Alluding to their abundance, he states that 'a quick scan of the hundreds of events with their own web pages on the internet testifies to the ubiquity of the boom in local film festivals today’ (Stringer 2001: 142). To add to this, de Valck, in 2007 puts an estimate at between 1200 and 1900 film festivals worldwide (de Valck 2007: 68). This proliferation has led some to mirror Elsaesser’s criticism of cinephilia take two, stating that with such rapid expansion, the film festival’s ‘aura of exclusivity evaporated’ (Stringer 2001: 137). The rebuke to such a statement would be, as with the split between cinephilias, that this exclusivity is remedied through curation. The increasing number of festivals is ensuring that ever-more cinephiles are able to present their curated programmes to a wider public.
It is vital that the era in which this professional phase of film festivals fell, from the 1980s onwards, is viewed against the backdrop of its socio-political landscape. The free market developments that are mentioned below, with respect to the film festival’s professionalization cannot be referenced without mention of the paradigm-shifting emergence of neoliberalism, a mutation of free market thinking that dominated the discourse of capitalism from the late 1970s. The influence of Lyotard’s little narratives on the film festival’s development is comparable to neoliberal rhetoric: Freedom from the state, increasing autonomy for individuals and the belief that left to their own devices, the market will solve problems based on supply and demand logic. Contrary to this persona that neoliberalism paints for itself, it is far from an embodiment of autonomous little narratives. Alfred Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston (2005) describe it as ‘part of a hegemonic project concentrating power and wealth in elite groups around the world' (Saad-Filho and Johnston 2005: 1). Although entrenched in the economic Right, and infused with the principles of entrepreneurialism and ‘free’ markets, Saad-Filho and Johnston insist on its hypocrisies with respect to how ‘free’ it really is. When referencing its global aspirations, they state: 'Neoliberal globalism is not at all a model of 'economic deregulation', and it does not promote ‘private initiative’ in general. Under the ideological veil of non-intervention, neoliberalism involves extensive and invasive interventions in every area of social life' (Saad-Filho and Johnston 2005: 4). Through this hypocrisy it is evident that far from enabling little narratives to co-create meaning, neoliberalism acted as yet another grand narrative. Saad-Filho and Johnston underpin the movement’s failure when explaining that ‘neoliberalism also destroys its own conditions of existence. Its persistent failure to deliver sustained economic growth and rising living standards exhausts the tolerance of the majority and lays bare the web of spin in which neoliberalism  clouds the debate and legitimates its destructive outcomes' (Saad-Filho and Johnston 2005: 5). Unlike neoliberalism’s inability to ‘deliver sustained economic growth’, film festivals have formed a sustainable and successful network.[19] This network has utilised some free market principles, whilst having a much wider remit than short-term profiteering and shareholder wealth maximisation, and therefore is far closer to a ‘free’ market than any defined under neoliberalism.[20]
De Valck uses this dichotomy to explain how the film festival network, the alternative form of film distribution not tied to neoliberalism’s agenda, differs from Hollywood, the dominant system that embodies neoliberalism’s form of corporate governance: ‘Hollywood's response to market developments, technological innovations, and changes in consumer behaviour is in the service of economic expansion and profit. The functional economic system of the (multi) media conglomerates subordinates all translations to this objective’ (de Valck 2007: 101-102). Such (multi) media ‘conglomerates’ are precisely the kind of anti-free market, anti-little narrative entities that Saad-Filho and Johnston accuse neoliberalism of fostering. In contrast, de Valck explains that the ‘translations occurring in film festivals, on the other hand, are more diverse, because there is not one dominant principle governing the festival circuit (de Valck 2007: 102). Having not one governing principle places film festivals much more in line with Lyotard’s little narratives and a more sincere invisible hand of need-satisfying capitalism, than the unresponsive, short-term profit obsessed conglomerates that populate Hollywood. Michael Porter, six-time McKinsey Award winner and one of the most notorious figures in Business Management academia, co-authored an article with Mark Kramer in the Harvard Business Review publically attacking the previously dominant paradigm of ‘shareholder wealth maximisation’. They state that ‘[t]he moment for a new conception of capitalism is now’ (Porter and Kramer 2011: 64) and explain that companies ‘continue to view value creation narrowly, optimizing short-term financial performance in a bubble while missing the most important customer needs and ignoring the broader influences that determine their longer-term success’ (Porter and Kramer 2011: 64). They urge companies to consider the long term view of ‘shared value creation’, which ‘involves  creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society’ (Porter and Kramer 2011: 64 – italics in original). This paper is significant due to Porter’s status in management academia, and that he and Kramer write this paper using language recognised by big business, in that it openly explicates their long term success, rather than advocating philanthropic or charitable acts. The film festival network has managed to become such a successful entity because it has taken this broad and long-term focused approach to conducting business and has remained predominantly uncontaminated by the neoliberal agenda. Porter and Kramer insist, just as it will be postulated with respect to the film festival network below, that this notion is grounded in the essentials of free market capitalism, but in a more broad sense than the profit-oriented, narrow view in which it has been practiced for the past thirty years. They state that ‘[c]reating shared value represents a broader conception of Adam Smith’s invisible hand’ (Porter and Kramer 2011: 77). This broader conception, as applied to this phase of the film festival network, is that rather than the invisible hand being guided by the presumption that profit/money is the most important factor in decision making, the needs of film festivals and their audiences, are grounded in cinephilia. It is under this measure that they have succeeded.
This professional form of the film festival, as it began in the 1980s, not only preceded the suggestions of Porter and Kramer, but preceded a late 1990s development that Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer (2005) refer to as ‘The Third Way’, which they explain was typified by the elections of New Labour under Tony Blair in the UK and the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton in the US. It has been described as 'neoliberalism with a human face... It shares with neoliberalism the acceptance of the dominance of the market in economic life... But the Third Way does acknowledge a role for government in the correction of 'market failure'' (Arestis and Sawyer 2005: 177). This hybrid of previously considered diametric Left and Right wing principles is further evidence of the diminishing ‘grand narratives’ of postmodernity, as previously fixed lines begin to blur. Such government intervention is fundamental to the development of film festivals during this time, with very few festivals existing without local and/or national public subsidy. Arestis and Sawyer explain that 'government seeks to correct externalities through appropriate taxation, subsidy and regulation and makes provision for 'public goods’’ (Arestis and Sawyer 2005: 179). In this respect, the film festival network, due to its cultural significance, succeeded in convincing that it is a ‘public good’ even prior to such a ‘Third Way’ system of governance becoming the dominant one. This was achieved through the guise of city marketing, which will be examined below.
Neoliberalism and its associated exacerbation of globalisation are prominent in a complex set of socio-cultural developments that conspired to diminish manufacturing in cities throughout the established Western world, leaving them needing to redefine themselves.[21] De Valck levels this city-redefinition as integral to such film festival proliferation: 'city marketing is an excellent concept for explaining the contemporary popularity of festivals with local authorities and it may even be part of the reason why the phenomenon spread so quickly in the 1980s and 1990s' (de Valck 2007: 75). Along with the establishment, or continuing rise, of the already mentioned festivals in Rotterdam and Toronto, the professional era saw festivals appearing in cities not previously thought likely to hold international film festivals, like the West Yorkshire cities of Leeds and Bradford, currently coming up to their 26th and 19th international film festivals respectively. Further, expansion into previously under-exposed countries, presenting similarly under-exposed world views, leads Stringer to claim that these ‘events open up new and counter public spheres within a circuit of globalized media distribution' (Stringer 2001: 142-143). This point ratifies the arguments above regarding the fact that having many disseminated points in global discussion (little narratives) is preferable to a few, larger sites (grand narratives) having all the influence.
Montserrat Crespi-Valbona and Greg Richards’ (2007) assessment of the increasing popularity, and social significance of ‘cultural festivals’ in redefining, or reinstating, Catalan identity following the fall of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 has influenced much film festival academia relating to a similar period. They explain that cultural festivals ‘are increasingly becoming arenas of discourse enabling people to express their views on wider cultural, social and political issues’ (Crespi-Valbona and Richards 2007: 103). They explain that large cultural events bring communities together and can help to redefine or create cultural identities related to geographical spaces. This is significant with respect to the increasing film festivals in cities such as Bradford that have suffered at the hands of the swift industrial changes throughout the late 1970s and 1980s (see below for more on Bradford). This process of redefinition was recognised by Elsaesser, who gives special mention to film festivals as particularly able to aid this redefinition:
Among different kinds of temporary events and festivals, a special role accrues to the international film festival, at once relatively cost effective, attracting both the local population and visitors from outside, and helping develop an infrastructure of sociability as well as facilities appreciated by the so-called “creative class” that function all the year round. Small wonder then, that the number of festivals has exponentially increased in recent years.
(Elsaesser 2005a: 86)
Elsaesser explains that these former industrial cities, that have lost their cultural identity, seek to attract this ‘creative class’ to satisfy the growing ‘knowledge’ industries.
Not following the invisible hand of consumer (cinephile) demand, which is what Vogel insisted he did with the successful expansion of Cinema 16, results in an accusation that there are perhaps too many film festivals. Sergi Mesonero Burgos (2008), investigating the film festival ‘epidemic’ in Spain, cites independent distributor Pedro Zaratiegui: We are experiencing a scandalously overwhelming and stupid emergence of festivals throughout the entire country’ (Zaratiegui cited in Burgos 2008: 9). It cannot be understated that public subsidy throughout the film festival network keeps it operating, but the success of such subsidy derives from supporting festivals that have recognised a need, which is why it can still be considered a part of the ‘invisible hand’ rhetoric of capitalism, bolstered by government subsidy in a ‘Third Way’ approach. A problem occurs, when this system of supply and demand isn’t correctly managed and factors distort the market by not obeying needs. This is what Burgos implies is occurring in Spain:
[I]n 2007, the local Institute of Culture subsidized 25 festivals; in comparison only three projects were denied their help. Such misunderstood magnanimity has meant that some festivals started because they were possible, not because they were necessary, although ‘possible’ does not mean that they are much above the line of subsistence.
(Burgos 2009: 12)
This really illustrates how free markets, as opposed to central organisation, are both present, and beneficial for the film festival network.
This subsidy seems increasingly sensible when considering more than the narrow view of short-term wealth maximisation stressed by neoliberalism and looks at more broad benefits to all stakeholders. This point is made by de Valck with respect to the city of Rotterdam, when stating that even with the incoming right-wing government, unfriendly to the arts, the funding for the IFFR was upheld because it had an economic benefit: ‘The new municipal government might not have been convinced of the festival’s cultural project, but at least it recognised its economic relevance to the city’ (de Valck 2007: 200). This economic relevance was identified by de Valck as ‘generating revenues for the city that is estimated to be triple of what is spent on the festival’ (de Valck 2007: 199). The city benefited because of the cultural prestige that came with one of the Netherlands’ most attended public events and the number of people that this brings to spend money in the city’s hotels, restaurants and other leisure activities.[22] The idea is that these organisations will then be more successful and not only better able to service the public, but will return more money to the city’s municipalities in the form of business rates.
The film festival network had to adhere to this dominant rhetoric of ‘professionalization’ in order to attract the large audiences needed to continue their cinephilic ambitions. It is in this respect that festivals can be accused of compromising their artistic integrity. This becomes a greater issue as the same – or declining – amount of public subsidy cannot support the exponentially rising number of festivals. Crespi-Valbona and Richards refer to Stanley Waterman, who they explain ‘argues that arts festivals have been driven by declining public subsidy into competing for business sponsorship’ (Crespi-Valbona and Richards 2007: 106). They cite him directly, postulating that in this strive for business sponsorship the festival becomes a medium for business image making, as well as an arena characterised by less adventurous and less expensive programming’ (Waterman cited in Crespi-Valbona and Richards 2007: 106). This point is made in a film festival context by Ruby Cheung when investigating the corporatisation of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF): 'My research on the festival programmes before and after the HKIFF corporatisation clearly reveals that the premieres of mainstream blockbusters have gradually pushed art-house films aside and become the festival's main features. One might argue that attending the festival is no longer an experience that is distinct from attending mainstream theatrical screenings' (Cheung 2009: 111). Yet, within this conflict lies another hegemonic battle. On the one hand, festival programmers are having their cinephilia neutered. On the other, their curated selections are able to reach out to audiences they would have otherwise never come in contact with. De Valck (2005) raises this point when referring to the IFFR as a ‘Multiplex of cinephilia’. She insists that the increased popularity that comes as a result of such professionalization works to the betterment of the cinephilic sense of discovery: ‘The festival in Rotterdam is a joyful celebration of cinema that, through its popular appeal, introduces a larger audience to the cinephile experience and can potentially even persuade them to continue to deepen this engagement' (de Valck 2005: 108). Just as de Valck is persuasive in this argument, Cheung competently provides evidence of this not being the case at the HKIFF. Yet, considering she is correct in her postulation regarding diminishing experimentation and innovation at the HKIFF, Elsaesser raises a point that illuminates one of the film festival network’s defining characteristics as an organic and responsive network. He states that ‘for many Western visitors, put off by the sheer size of the Hong Kong festival, Pusan also became the portal for a first contact with the other “new” Asian cinemas in the 1990s’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 84-85). In a similar way to the impact of the Directors’ Fortnight and The Forum introduced to compete with Cannes and Berlinale, this shows that if something strays too far from what it had stood for, or too far from the need that created it in the first place, something else will grow to satisfy that need. It is in this respect that the festival network can readily draw some parallels with the invisible hand of free market capitalism. This invisible hand analogy was already evident in Vogel’s insistence on putting the needs of the audience first, but it was an invisible hand relying on cinephiles existing to satisfy needs, rather than the ‘greed is good’ maximisation of short term profits. The idea that film festivals have grown in number throughout this period, in order to satisfy unmet needs, is recognised by Turan, who accuses regular distribution – both Hollywood and art-house – as failing to meet cinephile needs: 'while movie fans have not lost their taste for the artistic and non-commercial, theatres are not always willing to risk showing those films' (Turan 2002: 7-8). This is why cinephile programmers are increasingly starting their own festivals or expanding into film festival terrain. This abundance, according to Elsaesser, is also a good thing for the global distribution of alternative film content. He states, in further free market rhetoric, that in ever-increasing numbers, film festivals ‘complement each other along the same axes. Competition raises standards, and adds value to the films presented’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 86). This ‘value addition’ for films in the network is one of the greatest outcomes of this professionalization, and will be covered below.
The film festival network can utilise its unique structure, with its many nodes, to raise the prestige, visibility, saleability and influence of niche films neglected by both a Hollywood system entrenched in modernity’s linear short-sightedness, and a decreasingly innovative art-house circuit. De Valck and Loist argue that ‘[w]ith the increasing pressure on art-house exhibition and a simultaneous boom in mid-size and smaller film festivals, the events themselves have become an alternative distribution method' (de Valck and Loist 2009: 183). They go on to add:
Smaller films without theatrical release lined up can raise their cultural capital through the value-adding process at festivals... a small film might be able to cross over from the alternative (yet closed) distribution network that is the festival circuit into (theatrical) distribution. If one festival is not enough, a chain of screenings at festivals might be used to build up momentum slowly.
(de Valck and Loist 2009:184)
This is the main strength of such a pluralist approach, and shows that Lyotard’s little narratives are clearly abundant. Little narratives have to negotiate with each other in such a network, ultimately creating a selection that is more representative of the actual shape of society, as opposed to privileged elites. Further, this makes film festival successes more definitively part of a free market. More so than a Hollywood produced and distributed film that has secured its place in cinemas and on people’s DVD shelves with the assistance of herculean marketing campaigns and the closed systems of synergy throughout the distribution chain that were encouraged through the neoliberal boom. This further illustrates how neoliberalism’s influence has far from strengthened free markets and in fact had the opposite effect, unlike what is evident in the film festival network.

Bradford’s Uncharted States of America: An illustrative example of cinephiles utilising city marketing

Viewed in light of the points raised above, looking at the Bradford International Film Festival (BIFF) can bring this investigation almost to the present day. By looking at its geographic location and its thematically curated strand, the Uncharted States of America (USoA), this example can illustrate how cinephiles take advantage of city marketing in order to push the boundaries of cinema.
Elsaesser specifically refers to Bradford when explaining how the expansion of film festivals is no longer limited to capital, and other major cities, stating that ‘refurbished industrial towns are in the running. Often medium-sized cities, verging on the nondescript, decide to host a film festival in order to boost their tourist attractions or stake a claim as a regional cultural hub (e.g., Brunswick in Germany, Bradford in Britain)’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 86). This cultural rebranding is precisely what Bradford has aimed to achieve by becoming, in 2009, the world’s first UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) City of Film. Roy Stafford (2010), when writing about the development of Bradford’s Asian, African and Caribbean focused Bite the Mango International Film Festival (Bite the Mango), singles out the numerous film festivals held at the National Media Museum as a major contributor to this designation: 'Much of the evidence that the city's film community had presented to UNESCO's committee for this award concerned the work of the museum, its four film festivals and other specialized cinema events' (Stafford 2010: 107). These four film festivals are that which Stafford writes about, Bite the Mango; the genre festival dedicated to horror, fantasy and other ‘fantastic’ cinema, Fantastic Films Weekend; the UK’s largest and longest running animation festival, the Bradford Animation Festival, and finally, the Bradford International Film Festival. Specifically choosing film in order to define the cultural value of a city is a strategic move similar to that taken by Rotterdam, as noted by de Valck in her account of the IFFR. The director of the Rotterdam Arts Foundation, Adriaan van der Staay, knowing that Rotterdam was unable to compete with Amsterdam as a representative of the more established arts, decided to concentrate on ‘new’ media, ‘which had not yet been appropriated by other cities. He figured that this was how Rotterdam could become a second (and not secondary) capital of culture because it did not have to compete with Amsterdam on the exact same playing field’ (de Valck 2007: 172). As noted above with respect to city marketing, de Valck focuses attention on the municipal government’s support of the festival and the success that the festival has brought the city.
It was the rapidly altering industrial landscape that forced Bradford to seek a way to redefine itself. This is point is made by Stafford with respect to Bite the Mango, referring to the varied ethnicities that comprise Bradford and surrounding districts that the festival aimed to represent and cater for, most of whom came during the development of Bradford's textile industry. Stafford states that it 'was the decline of these same industries that encouraged Bradford to seek to promote other activities, such as the cultural and creative industries' (Stafford 2010: 106). Having established why such a city would redefine itself through film, and dominate the cultural calendar with four film festivals, we can see how cinephiles can take advantage of the situation in order to present innovative cinema to the population of Bradford and surrounding areas.
April 2012 saw the sixth edition of USoA as part of the eighteenth BIFF. It is described in the official festival catalogue as ‘the best of genuinely independent, low- (or no-) budget, risk-embracing American cinema’ (BIFF catalogue 2012 - italics added). The emphasis added on the word ‘genuinely’ is to highlight the festival’s implication that what is currently termed ‘American indie’ takes liberties with the concept of independent.[23] Elsaesser mentions this, when defining festival films as frequently being more independent than those in regular art-house distribution: ‘The category “independent” cinema says little about how such films are produced and financed, but acts as the ante-chamber of re-classification and exchange, as well as the placeholder for filmmakers not yet confirmed as auteurs’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 92 – italics in original). The genuine independence of the films featured in USoA illustrates the cinephile ambition to discover; the very title ‘Uncharted’ States references this quality. Such a cinephile quality is essential to BIFF differentiating itself from the many other similar sized festivals. As Elsaesser explains, with the increasing proliferation of smaller film festivals, they are ‘seeking to differentiate themselves in their external self-presentation and the premium they place on their (themed) programming’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 86).
By placing such an emphasis on a nation that is already well represented in global cinema, from both Hollywood and a thriving pseudo-independent sector, BIFF is sending out a firm statement on the creation of cultural assumptions. The audience is forced to re-evaluate what they consider to be American cinema; a reminder that their potentially relatively fixed notion of what ‘America’ means is in fact culturally conditioned. The strand also confronts a cultural assumption about the role of film festivals, as typified by Nichols’ statement: ‘Films from nations not previously regarded as prominent film-producing countries receive praise for their ability to transcend local issues and provincial tastes while simultaneously providing a window onto a different culture’ (Nichols 1994: 16). The USoA films satisfy this assumption by ‘providing a window onto a different culture’, but flaunt it by doing so through a ‘prominent film-producing country’. The films in the USoA could be more alien than in programmes focusing on under-exposed regions less associated with filmmaking, because homogenous images of American life and culture dominate global cinema and television, creating a mythic image of what it is to be American. In Nichols’ terms, the USoA ‘infers meaning’ by dealing with characters and subject matter often avoided by mainstream American cinema, often set in small towns far removed from the dominant vision of New York and California prominent in most cinematic depictions of the country. And it ‘discovers form’ by exhibiting a range of cinematic techniques. One example from 2010’s USoA saw China Town (Lucy Raven 2009), a fifty minute documentary entirely comprised of a rapid succession of over seven thousand still photographs.
More than simply presenting an unknown or unrepresented culture, USoA films often more abrasively present distinctly American themes and images, and then subvert them. The Last Buffalo Hunt (Lee Lynch and Lee Anne Schmidt 2011) from the 2012 edition of USoA ‘infers meaning’ by documenting the act of Buffalo Hunting for leisure, Illustrating the commodification of an act symbolically associated with the colonization of the country - the hunting and slaughtering of its indigenous inhabitants. The film shows how the privileged white middle classes pay to relive this sense of mythic Americanness. There is one specific, notable instance of ‘discovering form’ that actively rejects a mainstream approach of masking the real violence in the depiction of killing. The shooting of a buffalo repeatedly until it finally dies is presented unflinchingly in a number of extended shots, including one almost static fifty second shot with the camera looking straight into the prone buffalo’s eyes as it is shot four times and still doesn’t die. This is followed by a close up, forcing the viewer to watch as the Buffalo’s blood splutters out of its nose, presumably coming straight from its punctured brain, until a final shot kills it. This doesn’t allow the viewer to avoid witnessing the brutality that is usually masked and glossed over in spectacular American myth-making.
Another example can be seen in the flagship feature for the 2012 edition of the strand, Sawdust City (David Nordstrom 2011) - its status as ‘flagship feature’ will be discussed below. The film ‘discovers form’ by taking the iconic American genre template of the road movie and presenting it unspectacularly, in a way that is as clear as it is impressive that a minimal budget has been used. This includes the ‘video’ quality of the production, the use of naturalistic performances from the main characters - including from the director himself, David Nordstrom, as well as The Last Buffalo Hunt co-director Lee Lynch – and seemingly unprofessional actors populating the many bars that these characters traverse. The simple and distinctively American plot follows two estranged adult brothers roaming bar to bar seeking their father on Thanksgiving Day. Pete (Carl Bird McLaughlin) is on leave from the Navy and Bob (David Nordstrom) has remained in their hometown and settled down to a domestic, yet unemployed life. Despite its simplicity, the film ‘infers meaning’ by showcasing the surrounding town. This road movie actively and symbolically cuts short the use of vehicles, trapping these characters, and the audience’s attention, firmly within this small Wisconsin town, a microcosm of an under-represented America. The fact that this town is like many other towns in America is alluded to in the narrative, with Pete declaring that other towns have the “same book stores, same electronic stores, same shit”, which further references that the under-exposed nature of such a geographic locations is perplexing. Whilst never patronizingly dehumanizing the inhabitants, who predominantly seem quite content in their lives, the film postulates that, via Bob’s breakdown mid-way through the film, that there lies a crisis of masculinity here in these unrepresented towns. Issues such as the bursting of the property bubble creating unemployment is raised as a factor, only to be discredited by Bob’s apparent unwillingness to address his situation. This combines with other factors to comment on a lost and confused American masculinity, along with a lost sense of place and belonging within such communities.
In addition to the actual events and screenings at a film festival, there is the ‘written festival’; the way the festival is documented. This includes official literature published by the festival, as well as the press that follows. Elsaesser explains that ‘film festivals are defined not so much by the films they show, but by the print they produce’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 95). In this respect, remaining with the abovementioned Sawdust City, looking through the festival’s primary promotional material, its catalogue (BIFF 2012a), there is an ‘exclusive interview with David Nordstrom – writer, director, editor and co-star of Sawdust City’ (BIFF 2012a: 77). The fact that there are no other interviews in the catalogue instantly illustrates the emphasis is placed on this film, which also acts as the flagship feature for the promotion of the strand. The term ‘exclusive’ suggests a high profile interview with a major star, thus raising the perceived status of the interview, the film and the entire strand. Also of note, is that this introduction lists Nordstrom’s many credits in the film, making explicit how much of a rising talent he is, and therefore what a discovery the festival has made. Elsaesser suggests that this ‘long-term commitment to building up a particular auteur is typical of smaller festivals’ (Elsaesser 2005a: 99). This sentiment is reified in the festival catalogue, explaining that this year’s USoA ‘strikes a happy balance between returning directors and ‘newbies’’ (BIFF 2012a: 76). In an example of the time invested in one filmmaker, the catalogue states: ‘From that initial 2007 vintage. Mr Uncharted States himself, James Benning returns with Small Roads’ (BIFF 2012a: 76). The idea that the festival could find the next big name also suggests to the reader that they themselves could be part of such a cinephilic discovery. After a section on the returning filmmakers, the catalogue goes on: ‘The odds are, then, that future BIFFs will see the welcome return of 2012’s ‘freshman’ names’ (BIFF 2012a: 76).
A similar push for the film and the strand it represents came at the official press launch, where BIFF co-directors Tom Vincent and Neil Young named Nordstrom alongside the star-guests that the festival would be hosting – including Barbara Windsor, Ray Winstone, Olivier Assayas and Mark Kermode (Vincent and Young 2012). Further, Sawdust City was one of only a handful of trailers played at the launch. If these acts were not enough to alert this film to the press as an essential feature to cover and bestow legitimacy upon, so it can survive in the ‘written festival’, the film was also prominent in press releases (BIFF 2012b). A photo call and interview opportunity with David Nordstrom was listed just above the festival’s most anticipated event, celebrity film critic Mark Kermode’s interview with the highly reputed actor Ray Winstone. The listing on this press release is mirrored by the priority screening time for the film, on the first Saturday of the festival at 17:45. This provides it with a prime time evening slot, whilst ensuring that it doesn’t clash with the popular Ray Winstone interview at 19:30. Anyone visiting the festival, only for the Ray Winstone talk, may well consider fitting this screening in before. This is a prime example of using a populist event that garners wide press coverage and attracts many of the ‘cultural class’ identified by Elsaesser, then forcing them to notice this undiscovered project of cinephile attention.
One further instance of how this subversive strand was given a chance to ingrain itself in the consciousness of more casual festival-goers, is that preceding the Opening Gala screening of Damsels in Distress (2011), the full auditorium had the film introduced, via a pre-recorded video, by the film’s director Whit Stillman. The American director singled out the star of his film, Greta Gerwig, highlighting that she starred in the USoA film Yeast (Mary Bronstein 2008) in 2009. He urged those in attendance, at this sold out opening event, to go see as much of the strand as they could (Stillman 2012). Such a coup legitimates the programmer’s quest for spotting emerging talent in niche interest films. Such achievements will enable them in the future to justify to those more concerned with city marketing than cinephile discovery that this process pays off with a long term view.

[15] Langlois’ dismissal from the Cinémathèque Française had a large part to play in those 1968 disruptions, enthusing students and French film critics into support for the wider action throughout the country, which resulted in the halting of Cannes that year. 
These factors are essential considerations when considering the current status of international film festivals, as Lloyd mentioned above, going into such an era of austerity, the film festival network could do well to recognise that not only has it been practicing a business model of ‘shared value creation’, focusing on its entire industry and therefore taking a much more collaborative and longevity-ensuring approach to the free market than has the municipal Darwinism of neoliberalism, which encourages corporate cannibalism, but the evidence that cinephiles have been present at every phase of film festival development, and with the increasing possibility of cinephiles having a chance to become what they are due to the emergence of new technologies means there is little reason to believe that film festivals should suffer in the near future. 

Anderson, C (2006) The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand London: Business Books
Behlil, M (2005) ‘Ravenous Cinephiles: Cinephilia, Internet and Online Film Communities’ in de Valck, M and Hagener, M (eds) Cinephilia: Movies, Love, Memory Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press pp 111-124
BFI (2012) ‘Specialised Films’ on [online] available at accessed on 29.08.2012
BIFF (2012a) ‘Festivity and Doom: An exclusive interview with David Nordstrom – writer, director, editor and co-star of Sawdust City’ in 18th Bradfrod International Film Festival [official catalogue - unaccredited] Printed by National Media Museum, Bradford
BIFF (2012b) ‘Guest Interviews, Photocalls and Events at the 18th Bradford International Film Festival’ [press release – email] 10.04.2012. Distributed by National Media Museum, Bradford
Burgos, S.M (2008) ‘A Festival Epidemic in Spain’ in Film International Vol 6, No. 4 pp 8 – 13
Cheung, R ‘Corporatising a Film Festival: Hong Kong’ In Iordanova, D and Rhyne, R (eds) Film Festival Yearbook 1: The Festival Circuit St Andrews St Andrews: Film Studies pp99-115
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[1] The term Hollywood will be used throughout to refer to productions put together predominantly with money from the Hollywood studios, or with specific distribution deals through these studios already in place. This is in line with Geoff King’s (2005) explanation that most contemporary productions are put together in a ‘package system’, conceding that a ‘great deal of Hollywood production today can be described as ‘independent’ in this sense’ (King 2005: 5), but going on to add that ‘Hollywood remains the principal source of funding and distribution, even when only a relatively small proportion of production is conducted entirely in-house’ (King 2005: 5).
For a comprehensive evaluation of the contemporary situation in synergised media ownership surrounding the large Hollywood studios, see Meehan (2010)
[2] This is the term often used to refer to cinemas, whether or not they are strictly ‘independent’, that predominantly devote their programmes to showing ‘specialised’ films that are otherwise neglected in mainstream commercial cinema exhibition. Such ‘specialised’ content is defined by the British Film Institute (who have the greatest influence on these ‘independent’ exhibitors) as being quite broad, but containing the following: a foreign language film with subtitles; a documentary; a classic or archive film; hard to pigeonhole; a film that tells a story in an unconventional, challenging way; a film that is more experimental with cinematic techniques; a film that makes you think, that isn’t purely for entertainment’ (BFI 2012). In addition, the larger multiplexes increasingly have at least one screen committed to ‘specialised’ films.
[3] The full Italian name of the film festival is Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia. All film festivals throughout this essay will be referred to by their full English language title when they are first introduced, with an abbreviated title following in brackets, which they will then be referred to throughout. This may be an abbreviation, an acronym or what they are commonly referred to.
[4] Regarding the inception of the reoccurring film festival, Matthew Lloyd states: ‘Following a period of localised, one-off events (e.g. Monaco, Turin, Hamburg, Prague), the first recurring film festival was founded in Venice in 1932 (2011: 23).
[5] It wasn’t until after World War Two that the Cannes Film Festival began full operation and alongside the already established the Venice Biennale, formed the initial stages of a network.
[6] B-list is an incredibly reductive term for what is increasingly a vast array of festivals differentiated by size, influence, location, specialization and countless other factors. This must be considered, but the essential point is that all these festivals are those deemed to be less important than the A-list festivals.
[7] Lyotard gives, as examples of grand narratives, organised religion such as Christianity, or the focal point of his attacks, Marxism. These are simply two examples, but any system that imposes its values on society would be regarded as a grand narrative.
[8] Also known as the French New Wave, this is the term given to the French critics that went on to be filmmakers in their own right. This includes Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and many others.
[9] See Rahul Hamid (2009) for a thorough account of Vogel’s role in the establishment and early years of the New York Film Festival, following the closure of Cinema 16.
[10] It is important to note that documentaries at the time had very few avenues of exhibition in comparison to contemporary standards.
[11] What Macdonald refers to in 1996 as increasing government austerity is equally, if not more, relevant now, in 2012, particularly in Britain as the coalition government has openly staked its reputation on maintaining a stance of austerity to repair what they describe as a structural deficit in public finances.
[12] Anderson uses the term ‘shelf space’ to represent any limited space of analogue retail, such as actual shelf space in a shop, screens in a cinema or limited time slots on television and radio. What Anderson doesn’t fully explore is the ‘shelf space’ still evident in digital retail, such as the front page of iTunes. This doesn’t limit the amount of media available, but does still have an impact upon what media-objects are privileged.
[13] Regarding the relationship between present day Cannes and Mainstream Hollywood, Guy Lodge, in an article on The Guardian’s website referenced the 2012 edition as ‘the most Hollywood-friendly competition lineup in years’ (Lodge 2012)
[14] Set in the mythological embodiment of hierarchical modernity, the public boarding school, If uses both form and narrative to challenge and ridicule the establishment and forward some of the emerging post-structuralist theory.
[16] For an in-depth account of the emergence of the IFFR see De Valck (2007), who has a whole chapter dedicated to it. She charts the rise of the festival, as a project that reinvigorated both the city of Rotterdam and the film festival world. She describes it as ‘not rooted in a project for national or geopolitical interests like Berlin, Cannes, and Venice were, but in the belief that film festivals ought to take responsibility for programming themselves and dedicate the services to the benefit of quality cinema' (de Valck 2007: 165).
[17] This is not an issue exclusive to film festivals. Television is also increasingly curated, with exhibitors like Film4 often putting together specific strands and seasons.
[18] This heading is taken from Henry Giroux’s 2008 book, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics beyond the age of greed, an extensive account of neoliberalism’s societal failings as a dominant paradigm.
[19] de Valck justifies the use of the term ‘successful’ with respect to the festival network: ‘On the lowest, neutral level it refers to the fact that the number of film festivals has increased (explosively) over the years and that the international film festival circuit has become a prominent cinema network’ (de Valck 2007: 217).
[20] The short-term thinking of this era was underpinned throughout neoliberalism’s rule, as the cult of shareholder wealth maximisation, where all other stakeholders, ethical and moral issues, as well as considerations for long term sustainability were surrendered in favour of short-term, quarterly profits. In one of many current efforts to rebuke such an approach, Roger Martin (2010) explains that ‘shareholder value capitalism, began in 1976. Its governing premise is that the purpose of every corporation should be to maximize shareholders’ wealth. If firms pursue this goal, the thinking goes, both shareholders and society will benefit. This is a tragically flawed premise, and it is time we abandoned it’ (Martin 2010: 59).
[21] Needless to say, these developments deserve a whole body of work to themselves and unfortunately cannot be covered deeper here than how their effects directly impact the film festival network. 
[22] De Valck states that the IFFR ‘attracts one of the largest audiences of any film festival in the world... This number also positions the IFFR as the largest event for paying visitors within the Netherlands’ (De Valck 2007: 163).
[23] It is noted by Geoff King (2009) that this is usually referred to as ‘indiewood’, ‘an area in which Hollywood and the independent sector merge or overlap’ (King 2009: 1). He explains that this splits opinion, with some believing that, on the one hand ‘they offer an attractive blend of creativity and commerce, a source of some of the more innovative and interesting work produced in close proximity to the commercial mainstream’ (King 2009: 1)  and on the other hand, the way the BIFF catalogue implies, that ‘this is an area of duplicity and compromise, in which the ‘true’ heritage of the independent sector is sold out, betrayed and/or co-opted into an offshoot of Hollywood’ (King 2009: 1).